Denard Span

Giants seek outfield help, but MLB free agent market isn't that deep

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USATSI

Giants seek outfield help, but MLB free agent market isn't that deep

SAN FRANCISCO — The Giants have a lot of holes on their roster, but there’s one area where the needs are particularly glaring. 

At the moment, there is one outfielder, Steven Duggar, who looks like a solid bet to be a starter on Opening Day, but even he faces question marks after having his rookie season cut short by shoulder surgery. New president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi needs a couple of solutions for the corner spots, and depending on what he does with the arbitration-eligible Gorkys Hernandez, he might need another player capable of handling center. 

[RELATED: Get to know Steven Duggar]

The Giants have some internal options — Chris Shaw, Mac Williamson, Austin Slater — but the free agent market provides plenty of different looks. You're in some trouble, though, if you miss out on the top guys ... 

The Superstar: Bryce Harper is in a class by himself, and if Scott Boras gets his way, his salary will be in a class by itself, too. The Giants have always liked Harper, but they’re unlikely to get too involved in the bidding. 

Tier II: A.J. Pollock, Michael Brantley, Andrew McCutchen.

This group could either provide the Giants with another middle-of-the-order bat … or another terrible contract. All three of these players are in their thirties and will likely seek deals of at least three years, and according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today,

Pollock is looking for The Lorenzo Cain: five years, $80 million. That’s a lot for a player who has had serious trouble staying on the field. Brantley comes with injury risk, too, but would give the Giants a huge boost when it comes to reaching base. McCutchen liked San Francisco and wanted to stay. If his price drops, he could be the best fit. 

The Wild Card: Marwin Gonzalez.

The former Astro can play every infield spot and made 65 starts in left last season. If the Giants think Shaw, Williamson or Slater will work into the everyday mix, Gonzalez would be interesting as someone who could get plenty of starts in left and then move around on other days. 

Former All-Stars: Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Carlos Gonzalez.

The drop-off is pretty steep once you get past the guys previously mentioned. Markakis is coming off his best year, but Zaidi said he wants to get younger and more athletic, and the former Brave just turned 35. Jones is 33 and far removed from his peak, but perhaps he could provide some right-handed pop in a corner. Gonzalez, 33, had a .633 OPS away from Coors Field last season and has a .637 OPS in 74 career games at AT&T Park. 

[RELATED: How Zaidi can pull of Giants salary swap]

The Rest: Gerardo Parra, Denard Span, Jon Jay, Hunter Pence, Melky Cabrera, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Gomez, Matt Joyce, Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer, Derek Dietrich.

You can add a few more similar types to this list, too. Ironically, there are quite a few former Giants looking for outfield jobs, but don’t expect any reunions. You don’t have to go far down this list before you decide, “Man, we’re much better off just playing our own young outfielders and hoping one of them breaks out.” 

Rays trade former Giants outfielder to Mariners

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AP

Rays trade former Giants outfielder to Mariners

SEATTLE -- Rather than waiting to see where the Seattle Mariners are sitting by the time the trade market heats up, general manager Jerry Dipoto decided to be proactive.

Rewarding a strong start in spite of numerous injuries and the suspension of Robinson Cano, the Mariners pulled off the first big trade of the season Friday, landing outfielder Denard Span and right-handed reliever Alex Colome from the Tampa Bay Rays for two minor leaguers.

It's not a blockbuster deal, but it does immediately improve the Mariners after spending the first two months dealing with a number of significant injuries and still finding themselves near the top of the AL West.

"They're going to fit in our clubhouse and really fit too to what we think are critical needs," Dipoto said. "The fact we were able to do it and maintain another four, five months of their contribution for this year, it's so much different than an ordinary in-season or July-type of pick up."

Seattle was seeking outfield depth and a boost for a heavily used bullpen to keep up momentum from a strong start to the season, despite injures to five starting position players, including Cano prior to his suspension. The Mariners entered Friday nine games over .500 and off to their best start since 2003.

"I think it's an awesome message that everything we've dealt with in the last eight-to-10 days here - it starts at the ownership level and front office - that we're all in on this season," Seattle manager Scott Servais said. "That even though we had a setback with Robbie and the injury and suspension it's not going to derail us. Our eyes are set on the goal and that's getting to the playoffs and I think this helps us."

Tampa Bay will send Seattle $4.75 million to cover a portion of the $13,840,860 the Mariners took on with the acquisition of Span and Colome, although the Mariners had an unexpected $11 million freed up due to Cano's suspension.

Span is assured $10,193,548 - $6,193,548 remaining of this year's $9 million salary and a $4 million buyout of a $12 million mutual option. Colome has $3,647,312 left in his $5.3 million salary this year and can become a free agent after the 2020 season.

Seattle sent minor league right-handers Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero to Tampa Bay, but the Rays continued to shed salary from a roster that was already 28th out of 30 clubs on opening day according to MLB figures.

"This usually is the time where you're still learning about your club and where you're at competitively," Rays GM Erik Neander said. "I think some circumstances changed in Seattle with respect to where their team is at, where their finances were at and that led to some motivation from them to seek and try to find ways to improve their team."

Colome may be the most important piece of the acquisition for Seattle because of what he'll add to the bullpen, and he will be under club control for a few more years. He was an All-Star in 2016 with the Rays and led the major leagues with 47 saves last year, but will likely need to accept a setup role in Seattle with closer Edwin Diaz leading the AL with 17 saves this season.

Colome has 11 saves this year, but has allowed 10 earned runs in 21 2/3 innings.

"I just think it adds an unbelievable depth to a really good group already," Servais said. "When you're running guys in there three, four days in a row, you don't have to over-extend anybody."

Span has played both center field and left field in his career. He was hitting .238 in 48 games with the Rays, but his ability to play multiple spots in the outfield is the big benefit to Seattle after Dee Gordon's move to second base following to Robinson Cano's suspension. Dipoto said Span will likely be the regular left fielder with Ben Gamel transitioning to a reserve role and Guillermo Heredia holding down center.

Tampa Bay acquired Span from San Francisco in December after he signed a three-year free agent contract with the Giants prior to the 2016 season. Span was still processing the deal before leaving Tampa Bay. He said when he got through spring training without being traded, he believed it would be closer to the trade deadline before possibly getting moved.

"I'm really looking forward to this new challenge, but this is home for me," Span said. "It is disappointing. I can say that for sure. I was just trying to get settled in here and we were winning, we were having a good time. Maybe if this had happened after the first week of spring training or whatever, I would have been more prepared."

The Rays also sent minor league right-hander Peter Bayer to Oakland for right-hander Wilmer Font. Oakland acquired Font from the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 25 and designated him for assignment Wednesday.

Giants enter offseason 'very concerned' about their defense

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USATI

Giants enter offseason 'very concerned' about their defense

SAN FRANCISCO — Brian Sabean knew in March that his team had some issues. By May, he knew that the deficit was mathematically overwhelming. In September, he watched the Giants stumble to the finish line and finish in last place in the National League West. 

On the third day of October, Sabean — having watched all that — sent a passionate message to the fans.

“We had a last-place season. That can happen in sports, just like you have a lost year in life,” he said. “But we’re not last-place people and we’re not a last-place organization. We’re the furthest thing from that … This isn’t a ‘blow it up,’ this isn’t a rebuild. We hope it’s a reset. 

“Now, what it’s going to take and how that plays out to go from where we finished to being competitive to a playoff team, that’s incumbent on all of us to figure out. That’s been going on for months. The autopsy has been going on for months. I don’t know how much more we can tolerate knowing that the patient got sick and why it got sick. Fortunately, it didn’t die.”

At times Tuesday, the four men on a podium at AT&T Park looked like they had witnessed a death. This was not the press conference they wanted to be giving, in part because of the date. Sabean, Larry Baer, Bobby Evans and Bruce Bochy sum up every season from that podium, but it’s rare that they’re doing so before the first playoff game. Never have they had to do so after such a wildly disappointing run. 

There were few details, because it’s too soon to give details. Any coaching changes will be announced later, and the roster is healthy heading into the offseason, for the most part. While the Giants have spent months formulating an offseason plan, tampering laws exist and they’re also just not sure which players might be available. 

There was a general outline, though, and you didn’t have to read between the lines much. The clear priority is fixing the outfield defense, with the thought that doing so would have a cascading effect. The outfield was worth negative 45 defensive runs saved, per the Fielding Bible, a distant last in the majors. The A’s were 29th at negative 32. The Dodgers, by comparison, saved 14 runs in their outfield, per that metric. 

The eye test matches the numbers, and the Giants believe a change in center field can lead to much better results for a pitching staff that disappointed in 2017. Denard Span is preparing to move to left field, and team executives hinted Tuesday that they could also make a move in right and perhaps limit Hunter Pence’s playing time if there’s a complete outfield overhaul.

“Defense is something we’re very concerned about,” Evans said. “It’s one of the ways we can help support our pitching, and it’s important we support our pitching with excellent defense. We struggled in that area this year.”

The Giants have a list of defensive-minded outfielders they will pursue, and the focus is on trades, not free agency. They’re not thought to be big fans of players like Lorenzo Cain, who is 31. The focus is on getting younger and more athletic, and hopefully finding a center fielder who would be under team control for several years. 

In a perfect world, the Giants would add right-handed power with their new outfielder. It may be tough to do otherwise, although Evans joked Tuesday that the team might get Madison Bumgarner more at-bats next year. While Bochy would love a masher to take over the cleanup spot and protect Buster Posey, team executives were vague about that pursuit on Tuesday. 

They did not, however, waffle on how much work is to be done. 

“We can’t come back next season with the same roster and expect different results,” Evans said.